By Steve Hymon, March 26, 2014
As I dearly hope that you’ve heard by now, Metro is proposing a fare increase and changes in order to keep pace with rising costs. A public hearing will be held this Saturday, March 29, at 9:30 a.m. in the Board room at Metro headquarters adjacent to Union Station.
The two options proposed by Metro staff are above for those who have not yet seen them. The Metro Board is scheduled to vote on the fare changes at its meeting on May 22; the Metro Board may ask for changes to the fare proposals before voting on them. There is also more information about the changes on metro.net.
The following are comments from riders gleamed from various websites, including this blog. I think this is a good chance to see what people are saying while highlighting the agency’s response, as well as my own thoughts. Here goes:
ON OPTION 2 — OFF-PEAK VERSUS PEAK HOUR FARES
Sheriff Bart at Curbed LA: “Charging more for “rush hour” commuting is one way to help keep people in their cars….what a stupid idea. Eliminating transfer fees within a 90-min window is an idea way past due.”The idea behind the second option was too look at a fare system that would encourage customers with more flexible schedules to ride outside of the rush hour, when seats are in the most demand and often completely filled on many buses and trains.
I’m certainly aware the second option has been criticized by others who also say the increases are too steep. Again, please keep in mind that the Metro Board of Directors has the discretion to choose either option and to make changes to those options before voting to approve one of the two options.
ON FARE EVASION AND THE NEED FOR NEW FARES
impoundguy at the L.A. Times: Heres a better idea…instead of raising the fares on those who actually PAY to ride…how about getting a little more proactive and coming up with a system that catches the MANY who ride and don’t pay!There are actually a couple of issues here. The first is the desire of many of our riders to see an increased crackdown on fare evasion. Metro officials say that’s already happening across the system. The Metro Board has also instructed agency staff to provide the Board of cost estimates and other issues involved with installing gates at rail stations that don’t have them. That includes the three rail projects currently under construction, the Crenshaw/LAX Line, Expo Line Phase 22 and the Gold Line Foothill Extension.
The other obvious question is how much money Metro loses to fare evasion. That is currently unknown — tracking fare evasion is difficult because many riders have valid fare cards but don’t always tap them on validators, according to the agency. This much is known: the average fare for Metro is 70 cents. Metro officials say that that money lost to fare evasion plus the money for additional security to lower the fare evasion rate would not cover the increased operating costs and budget deficits that Metro is facing in the future.
ON THE 90-MINUTE TRANSFER TIME
Ken W at Human Transit: Another comment that had me thinking twice was that this “free transfers within 90 minutes” is not what it’s cut out to be. The travel time on buses are reliant on street traffic conditions, so going from point A to transfer point is highly dependent on street traffic. And there are also constant delays on our Metro Rail system, especially the Blue and Expo Lines, added to the fact that when you TAP at the validator, it has no correlation to the time that the train actually pulls into the station. You could be waiting as much as 30 minutes on the platform after TAP, not moving, just standing, so you realistically have only 60 minutes to make it to the transfer point, pending no delays.Both options would include free transfers within 90 minutes. The 90 minutes are from the time you first tap your TAP card on a bus’ farebox or at a rail station’s TAP validators until the time you make your last tap. For example, if you board a bus or train one hour and 29 minutes after first tapping, that’s perfectly valid as part of your original fare.
There are two statistics from Metro staff that are relevant. The first is that according to the latest Metro customer surveys, 63 percent of riders do transfer to complete their journey. As of 2011, 94 percent of Metro trips were completed within 90 minutes, according to a comprehensive rider survey held that year.
The survey defines a trip as the time between the first tap and last tap. There remains, of course, the issue of what happens during major delays — especially ones that equipment related — when a trip that would normally take (for example) an hour instead takes 90 minutes or more. I suspect that’s something that will come up during Board discussions.
ON THE COST OF FARES AND TRANSFERS
Zcvzcvcvxcvzcv at Curbed LA: “Raise it to $2 and make free transfers… I would be in favor of a higher rail price than bus price but that doesn’t seem to be on the table.”
Poo Ping Palace at Curbed LA: “$1.75 a ride is still a bargain in 2014…[SNIP]…A poor person can afford $3 a day for transportation to/from work, but not $3.50 a day? Really? Chances are, with a 90-min transfer policy in effect, even at $2 a ride many poor commuters will actually save money compared to today.”
ImpatientMike at Curbed LA: “$9 Day Pass!!?? Bye Bye, Metro. Hello car. I’m for modest increases in fares but public trans in general needs more tax subsidies. It’s true that lots of poor people would get really pinched by this.”
shanedphillips at Curbed LA: “I’m all for the fare increase tied to more logical transfer policies. I’m not sure why day pass cost increases matter, that seems like a tourist thing regardless. If transfers are free, why would you need a day pass when you can just pay for 2 or 3 independent trips over the course of a day? [SNIP] And coming from Seattle, I can’t help but laugh at people complaining about the increase. Fares there are almost double what they are here, and service really isn’t any better.But as far as the rush hour increased charges, that seems backward. It’s hard to predict the consequences, but it seems like it would be just as likely to get people to drive (perhaps during off-peak hours) as anything. And maybe more importantly, rush hour is when bus service is best, both in terms of frequency and for access to bus-only lanes. Discouraging people from using it at those times seems like a horrible idea.”
Say banana at Curbed LA: “I agree with the new Metro fare proposal. New fare is fair. The only thing that I find stupid in the proposal is the daily pass. If it is $1.75 for 90 mins of free transfers = $7 for four 90 min uses. A daily pass is going to $7. No savings unless you plan to use it constantly throughout the day. The same price for $2 or $2.25. The day pass should be less than 4 trips total and more than the daily rate of a weekly pass. I hope Metro changes the routes for more super rapid routes (like the commuter express) and more very local routes centered around rail lines (like the dash).”
Voiceofsanity at Curbed LA: “Empty buses and trains cannot be subsidized by the taxpayers, and users of Metro system must pay their share. Metro needs to institute fair use pricing (these increases are not enough), with discounted weekly/monthly tickets, and a heavily discounted program for low income individuals who prove their income.”
Ridethebus at Curbed LA: “Los Angeles is a city where the majority of people still do not take transit. I think we should keep transit not just affordable, but strongly competitive versus driving in order to convert more people to transit (congestion, air quality benefits), Given the benefits, I believe introducing a congestion relief tax or county fuel tax to fund transit operations, boosting filming/ad revenue, and allowing stores in stations for rent would be much better funding sources than hiking fares like this.”
Rdm24 at Long Beach Post: “”We looked at our whole fare structure and said, is this really fair to our riders?” Metro spokesman Marc Littman told the L.A. Times. We actually penalize our passengers for trying to use the system more efficiently.” I am thrilled to see him recognize this, but I am flabbergasted they didn’t realize their transfer policy was broken from the start.”
ubrayj02 at L.A. Streetsblog: “I don’t understand how Metro builds these expensive train and bus stations that are 100% auto-dominated, with vast parking lagoons, with no bathrooms, and no on-site concessions and then (surprisingly) can’t recover enough money to pay for their operations. Ever tried to buy an ad with Metro? Small locally owned companies need not apply. Ever tried to open a concession with Metro? Don’t even bother. Ever tried to go to the bathroom on Metro? Just find a stairwell or elevator. How about a lower bar for bus and train ads? How about some manned pay toilets? How about some mom & pop newsagents and food vendors at stations that can support them? How about making Metro stations human-scale and commerce friendly? How about charging for parking in all those Metro lots? How about re-orienting your stations to the pedestrian and not the motorist? Instead of cutting operations, focus intensely on getting parasitic freeway driving commuters to see transit as viable – cut freeway services! Cut the free towing, cut the office building full of highway engineers. How much “fare box” recovery or sales tax is being generated for Metro through these horrible road widenings and freeway projects? I am willing to bet everything I own that they are worse money losers than nearly every transit project in Metro right now in terms of their “fare box recovery.”There are several issues raised. I’ll try to tackle each:
•Metro staff do not want to create separate fares for buses and trains. The idea is to keep the fares the same in order to encourage the most efficient use of the transit network — if it’s faster to take a train, Metro wants people to take the train rather than stay on a slower bus.
•On that note, a word about distance-based fares, which are frequently discussed on this blog’s comments board. Metro staff say that distance-based fares pose several difficult challenges, namely that Metro currently doesn’t ask bus riders to tap out and that many Metro Rail stations lack gates that serve as a good reminder for people to tap out.
•The people most likely to save money from the proposed fare changes would be those who currently use a $5 day pass to get to and from a single destination over the course of a day (i.e. going from home to work and back). The fare for some of those riders under the first option would be $3.50 a day (two $1.75 fares), a savings of $1.50 over the current day pass. Of course, that’s assuming they can tap in to all segments of their journey within 90 minutes.
•The increases for pass holders reflects the fact that they are heaviest users of the system, according to Metro officials. Under the proposals, day passes would most likely be used by those who intend to travel a lot on Metro at many different hours of the day.
•As for comments about improving rail station environments and making rent money from stations, I think that’s fair criticism to some degree — retail is lacking at most Metro Rail stations. In some cases, that’s because of lack of space but there do seem to be stations that could accommodate businesses or something to help energize them. However, I remain skeptical that revenues from vendors or mom-n-pop shops on Metro property would be enough to cover the enormous cost of running a vast bus-rail system without occasional fare increases.
•The decision in 2008 to get rid of transfers was done, in part, to discourage fraud that was taking place at the time (i.e. people selling phony transfers or transfers they didn’t need) and to try to recapture some lost revenue. Others have argued — in particular, transportation planner Jarrett Walker — that the ability to transfer is an integral part of creating an efficient transit network.